A peek inside Conard’s Class of 2015 Safe Grad party.
By Ronni Newton
The annual rite of passage after graduation from one of West Hartford’s high schools is the all night Safe Grad party – the theme of which is always kept top secret until the grads arrive at 10 p.m.
We-Ha.com got a sneak peek at the decorations for Conard’s party on Monday morning – an elaborate Hollywood-themed extravaganza that spirits grads into their future via “Con-Air.”
The invitations sent to all graduates – boarding passes designed by Stacy Murray – are the only clues that the student have before they arrive and step through a wall of glitter into an “airplane” and then through the other side where Ryan Seacrest (aka Assistant Principal Matt Pace) and paparazzi (chaperones) in TMZ shirts snap their photos as they head down a 40-foot red carpet into the celebration.
Safe Grad chairperson Chantal Kotyla said a few minor last-minute adjustments had to be made to accommodate this year’s indoor graduation, but most of the decorations remained hidden until the beginning of the party. All of the decorating is done off-site, at St. Mark’s Church on South Quaker Lane, and moved to Conard in the days leading up to graduation.
The Safe Grad decorating committee keeps some of the panels and props from previous years, but there are always new, and very elaborate, additions.
Rich Ferguson-Hull spent three months crafting human-sized “Oscars” that involved gluing sheets of special foam together, one layer at a time, Kotyla said.
“The people that came through with all the details, it was just incredible,” she said.
The Hollywood theme included a focus on several movies that were popular during the years the graduates were growing up. Areas of the lobby are evoke detailed scenes from “Toy Story,” (the clouds took four people four hours each to craft) “Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “Transformers,” and “Hunger Games,” and graduates can pause for photos in each set.
“We tried to be mindful of having activities for all of the kids, and some of them don’t want to be bouncing on the inflatables all night. Every movie we’ve focused on will also be shown in the auditorium,” Kotyla said, affording some quiet time.
Conard’s cash cab (a real vehicle with the engine removed) makes its annual appearance, this time beneath the “Hollywood Hills.” The hills were another major new project – a vision of some of the people on the decorating committee, Kotyla said.
Photos of every graduate fill a star along the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” leading to the gym where the grads expend their celebratory energy in several inflatables. Included is a “cash cube,” where one lucky grad will win money every hour. The small gym is host laser tag throughout the night.
Safe Grad also has transformed the cafeteria, with ping pong tournament area, Rodeo Drive food court decorated with authentic restaurant signs, karaoke, henna tattoo artist, “Minute to Win It,” and arts and crafts.
“I think they did an awesome job,” Kotyla said of the committee. “The attention to details, even on the crafts relating to the theme is amazing.”
The back of the cafeteria is devoted to the “Glo Lounge,” where grads enjoy music by Sound Spectrum in a black-lit atmosphere.
At 2 a.m., grads will file into the auditorium where they will be entertained by a hypnotist.
At 4 a.m., $3,800 worth of prizes will be given away at random. The grads have to be present to win a prize, most of which are items they can use in their future lives like TVs, printers, and other high-tech gadgets.
Kotyla said that businesses have been extremely generous in donations, and the committee also raised a good amount of money through the Parents Night Out fundraiser and from “flocking.”
She’s hopeful that most of the class will attend. “The invitiations were a real hit. They got people pumped,” she said.
“The whole concept is to have kids be safe and celebrate their accomplishments,” said Kotyla.
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